Phew, that was as good as Game of Thrones gets. This week gave us several icy battles, battling Stark sisters, a grand entrance from Daenerys, a shocking death—and an even more shocking resurrection.
The episode opens on the table map at Dragonstone and a crackling fire before cutting to Jon’s team marching beyond the Wall. Everyone engages in some witty banter and exposition: Gendry reveals he’s never seen snow before while Tormund makes his usual lewd jokes. Jon and Tormund discuss Daenerys and her demand that Jon bend the knee; Tormund reminds Jon that Mance Rayder pledged his allegiance to no one: “How many of his people died for his pride?” Meanwhile, Gendry berates Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr for selling him to the Red Woman. Then, Jon and Jorah Mormont reminisce about Jeor Mormont, Jorah’s father and the late Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Jeor took Jon under his wing in the earlier seasons, before he was murdered by his own men back in Season 3. Jorah tells Jon that Ned Stark almost put him to death, then Jon offers to return Longclaw, which Jeor gave him in Season 1. He says the Valyrian steel sword belongs to the Mormont family, but Jorah says he brought shame to House Mormont and forfeited his right to the sword. He tells Jon it’s meant for him and his children.
We move to Winterfell where Arya tells Sansa about the time she stole Bran’s arrows to practice shooting, even though girls aren’t supposed to do such things. She hit a bullseye and Ned clapped for her. “I knew what I was doing was against the rules, but he was smiling, so I knew it wasn’t wrong,” Arya says. “The rules were wrong. I was doing what I was meant to be doing and he knew it.”
Arya accuses Sansa of helping the Lannisters kill Ned, citing the note she found in Littlefinger’s room during last week’s episode. Sansa tells Arya she was forced to write that, but Arya shames her: “I would’ve let them kill me before I betrayed my family.” Sansa tells Arya she wrote the note to save their father, but Arya says she was stupid and a coward—she saw Sansa standing with the Lannisters on the day of Ned’s execution. Arya accuses Sansa of betraying their whole family for Joffrey. Furious, Sansa reminds Arya their family won back Winterfell because she had control of the Knights of the Vale. She says the Starks fighting is exactly what Cersei wants. Arya realizes Sansa is afraid the other Northern Lords will see the note. “What will little Lyanna Mormont say? She was younger than you when you wrote this,” Arya says, rebutting Sansa’s excuse that she was “just a child.” Sansa tells Arya her anger is blinding her, but Arya tells Sansa fear makes people “do unfortunate things.” She leaves Sansa standing alone.
North of the Wall, Tormund continues the banter, telling the Hound he wants to have children with Brienne of Tarth. This whole thing was so damn funny, from Clegane introducing the word “dick” into Tormund’s vocab (“ahhh, dick…I like it!”), to Tormund’s almost-breathless fantasizing about Brienne (“I see the way she looks at me”), to the pretty astute observation that the Hound is a sad man disguised as a mean one. Beric Dondarrion tells Jon he doesn’t look like Ned (wonder why?), then reveals he knows Melisandre revived Jon from the dead. Beric tells Jon they both have a greater purpose, since the Lord of Light brought them back to life. “Death is the enemy,” he tells Jon. “The first enemy and the last. The enemy always wins, and we still need to fight him.” Beric thinks perhaps they were both resurrected to save other people from death. “We can defend those who can’t defend themselves.” Jon responds with a quote from the oath of the Night’s Watch: “I am the shield that guards the realms of men.” Beric tells him, “Maybe we don’t need to understand any more than that.” The group keeps walking, then the Hound points out a mountain in the distance. He says it’s the one he saw in his vision (the one from the Season 7 premiere).
On Dragonstone, Daenerys tells Tyrion she likes that he’s not a hero: “Heroes do stupid things and then they die. Drogo, Jorah, Daario, and then this Jon Snow. They all try to outdo each other. Who can do the stupidest thing?” Tyrion notes all those men fell in love with her. Dany scoffs.
They discuss the plan to visit Cersei. Dany is sure she’s setting a trap, but Tyrion says they will have enough support with two armies and three dragons. Tyron doesn’t want to trick Cersei: “If we want to create a new and better world, I’m not sure deceit and mass murder is the way to start.” He acknowledges they will have to be brutal to win the war, but says they shouldn’t start there. “Fear is all Cersei has, it’s all my father had, Joffrey… It makes their power brittle, because everyone beneath them longs to see them dead.” He reminds Dany of her desire to break the wheel Aegon Targaryen built.
Tyrion tells Dany Cersei will try to provoke her and she must be careful to control her temper, unlike what happened with the Tarlys. Dany accuses Tyrion of taking his family’s side, but he tells her she must try to see things from her enemies’ viewpoint, in order to their behavior and beat them at their own game. He tells her he supports her mission to create a better world, which is why they must find a way to guarantee her legacy lives on after her death. He wants them to decide on a successor, especially since she could’ve easily died during the Loot Train Battle. Daenerys doesn’t want to hear it: “We will discuss the succession after I wear the crown.”
Back across the Wall, Jon’s party is attacked by a giant bear with blue eyes. Beric Dondarrion manages to set the bear on fire with his flaming sword, but several men die and Thoros of Myr is severely wounded. Once the bear is killed, Jorah wants to take Thoros back to Eastwatch, but Beric instead burns off his inflected flesh. They help him stand and the group moves on.
Littlefinger pretends he has no idea where Arya got the note from. Sansa is concerned about a mutiny; they’ve asked the Northern houses to assemble and fight during the worst winter in living memory, but they all have a track record of serving whichever leader suits their interests best. Sansa fears that, with her history, they will easily turn their backs on her, especially if they read her note about the Lannisters. Realizing Sansa fears Arya will hurt her, Littlefinger advises her to use Brienne as protection.
Back withe the merry men, Jorah asks Thoros about his involvement in the Siege of the Pyke. He remembers Thoros fighting that day and thought he was the bravest man he’d ever seen. Thoros admits he was too drunk to remember any of it.
The men continue their journey and discover a White Walker leading a group of wights through a pass. Jon wonders where the rest are. The group of wights stumble upon a fire set by Jon and his men; Jon kills the White Walker with Longclaw, which causes the rest of the wights to collapse except for one. Tormund punches the rogue wight to the ground and the Hound jumps on it. It shrieks so loudly, the echo reverberates across the canyon, calling the Army of the Dead for help. Jon hears the White Walkers approaching. They put the captured wight in a bag and Jon orders Gendry, who’s the fastest, to run back to Eastwatch and send a raven to Daenerys. (Which begs the questions, why didn’t they just bring Dany from the start, or even a Raven?!) Tormund makes Gendry leave his hammer so he can run faster.
Jon and his remaining men run for safety but end up on a frozen lake, which starts cracking. The wight army approaches from the distance, so the men run across the lake until they reach a small island. A wight attacks one of the men, causing the ice on the lake to break further. Many of the wights fall into the icy water, and the rest are separated from the men. The scene cuts to Gendry running as fast as he can. It’s getting dark. Jon and his men still have their captured wight, which is tied up and growling. The men will freeze to death if Dany doesn’t come soon. The scene cuts back to Gendry, who collapses, but mercifully, he’s right in front of Eastwatch. Conveniently, Davos has been watching for him. Gendry tells them to send a raven to Dany.
Daylight breaks on Jon and the men. They’re all freezing. The Hound kicks the wight, which starts screaming. The other wights scream back in response. Beric discovers Thoros froze to death in the night. The Hound steals his alcohol to drink it, but Jon grabs it out of his hands. They have to burn the body so it’s not turned into a wight. “We’ll all be right behind him, unless the Lord of Light is kind enough to send us a bit of fire,” Tormund jokes. Beric lights his sword and sets Thoros’s body alight, praying over it: “The night is dark and full of terrors.” Jorah notes the water will freeze over soon. He asks Jon why all the wights collapsed when Jon killed the White Walker. Jon says that White Walker was likely the one who turned the corpses into wights in the first place. Jorah wants to try to defeat the White Walkers, but Jon says they must return home with the wight as proof. “Daenerys is our only chance.” Beric points to the Night King. “Kill him. He turned them all.” Beric believes battling the Night King is what he and Jon were resurrected for.
Sansa recieves an invite to Kings Landing, but she refuses to be taken prisoner by the Lannisters again. She tells Brienne to go in her place, Brienne says it’s not safe to leave Sansa alone with Littlefinger. Brienne offers to leave Pod for protection, but Sansa refuses: “I do not need to be watched over or minded or cared for. I am not a child. I am the Lady of Winterfell and I am home. This is the safest place for me.” She cuts off Brienne’s protestations and orders her to leave.
Somehow, through this seasons questionable time/travel, the raven has managed to speedily reach Dany and Tyrion at Dragonstone. Tyrion tries to convince Daenerys going north is a bad idea: “The most important person in the world can’t fly off to the most dangerous place in the world.” She ignores him, and he practically begs her not to go: “Sometimes nothing is the hardest thing to do. If you die, we’re all lost.” She tells him, “I’m not doing nothing again.” She flys off with Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal.
The Hound stupidly starts throwing rocks at the wights, presumably out of boredom. He hits one, but it barely moves. He throws another rock, and this time it lands a few feet from the wights and skitters across the ice—the water has frozen again. The wights start moving toward the group, and the fight begins. The Hound smashes the ice with Gendry’s hammer to drown some of the wights. Beric fights several off with his sword, but Jon shouts for the men to fall back. There’s simply no way the men can defeat them all. Tormund is attacked by a group of wights and nearly dragged into the water, but the Hound saves him. Meanwhile, Jon is intent on saving the captured wight at any cost, dragging its body away from the battlefield as his men fight for him. In a moment reminiscent of last season’s Battle of the Bastards, Jon realizes the fight is hopeless—until stream of fire erupts behind him. Daenerys has arrived with her dragons.
Daenerys pulls up riding Drogon. She reaches for Jon’s hand, but a wight starts attacking, so he fights to hold the wights off while the rest of his men board the dragon. He seems intent on going for the Night King, now that he has the backup to help him pull it off. But the Night King is way ahead of him—he grabs an ice spear and sends it flying right into Viserion’s back. Bleeding, the dragon slams into the ground, smashing the ice and sliding into the water. Jon screams at Daenerys to leave. He’s attacked by a group of wights and pushed into icy water. Deanerys flies away with Jorah, Tormund, Beric, the Hound, and the captured wight. The Night King throws another spear, narrowly missing Drogon.
Miraculously, the wights did not manage to drown Jon, and he emerges, gasping, from the icy water. The wights spot him struggling to walk across the frozen tundra and move to take him down once and for all. Jon raises his sword for one final fight, but a swinging ball of fire saves him—it’s Uncle Benjen! Jon can barely gasp “How?” before Benjen boosts him onto his horse and commands him to ride for Eastwatch. Benjen sacrifices himself to the Army of the Dead.
Back at Eastwatch, as the Hound hoists the wriggling wight into a boat bound for King’s Landing, Dany watches for some sign of Jon’s return. She seems sadder about him than the death of her dragon baby. Jorah tells her it’s time to leave, but she asks to wait longer. Jon rides in but he can barely sit up on his horse. He’s taken to a boat where his frozen clothes are removed. Daenerys sees the scars on his chest from when he was murdered.
Back in Winterfell, Sansa snoops around Arya’s room and finds her bag filled with faces. Arya catches her and Sansa demands an explanation. Arya tells her she got them in Braavos while training to become a faceless man. She tells Sansa about “the game of faces,” explaining: “I ask you a question about yourself, and you try to make a lie sound like the truth. If you fool me, you win. If I catch a lie, you lose.” Arya asks Sansa to play and asks her how she feels about Jon as king. Sansa seems angry and frightened, and tries to ask about the faces again. Arya tells her they both wanted to be different people when they were children, but “the world doesn’t just let girls decide what they’re going to be.” Arya tells Sansa the faces let her do just that—she can even become Sansa. Arya becomes increasingly menacing, walking toward Sansa with a knife pointed at her. At the last second, she turns it on herself and walks out of the room. It’s a jarring, unsettling scene, the old Arya is definitely gone.
Jon awakens on the boat, with Daenerys watching him. He apologises for the death of Viserion. He grabs her hand and says he wishes they’d never gone North of the Wall. Dany says she needed to see the White Walkers with her own eyes to understand. She tells Jon her dragons are the only children she can have and vows to destroy the Army of the Dead. Jon thanks her, calling her Dany. She laughs, remarking her evil brother Viserys was probably the last person to call her that. Jon asks, “How about my queen?” He vows to bend the knee. “I hope I deserve it,” she says shakily. “You do,” he tells her. She becomes shy and pulls away.
In the episode’s chilling final moments, the wights drag Viserion’s lifeless body from the icy waters with the help of chains (it’s unclear where they get them from). The Night King places a hand on the dragon’s body, and a Viserion’s eye flashes open, blazing blue. Maybe now they have a way to take down the wall….
Next week it looks like we have all the major players meeting in the Dragonpit for a chat. My money is on a Cersei double cross…